This year, the festival expands its reach with CIFF East, two-dozen screenings held at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s Murch Auditorium and the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Gartner Auditorium and Morley Lecture Hall. CIFF East joins the festival’s previous off-site presentations in the Gordon Square Arts District, now branded CIFF West. “It’s great for local access to arts and culture,” says Chris Ronayne, president of University Circle Inc. “We have a great community in Greater University Circle who, at that time of year, can walk in for a show from our surrounding neighborhoods.” CIFF East kicks off its programming on April 4 during the festival’s second week.
A partnership with the Tribeca Film Institute, the If/Then Shorts competition spotlights short-form documentaries on Midwest subjects. Filmmakers apply to pitch concepts to a panel of industry judges at CIFF, the winner receiving up to $25,000 to complete their film and the opportunity to work with TFI’s mentorship team during the distribution process. If/Then has launched at six festivals
nationally, highlighting local stories in oft-forgotten regions. “We’re looking for stories about the Midwest told by filmmakers who represent their communities,” says Mridu Chandra, TFI’s director of If/Then Shorts. “Not a fly-in storyteller.”
In memory of David K. Ream, a CIFF trustee and LGBTQ advocate, the festival launched the Dream Catcher Program and Award, a career-recognition honor for an LGBTQ filmmaker. The inaugural recipient is Shaker Heights’ Jamie Babbit, director of cult hits such as But I’m A Cheerleader. As part of her award, Babbit is hosting gatherings with local LGBTQ organizations throughout the festival. “We wanted to do something to permanently honor Dave’s commitment to the LGBTQ community,” says Marcie Goodman, CIFF’s executive director.